Shifting tides in North Carolina make it an electoral wild card in 2020, and a hot spot for political hijinks.
Election Integrity Grade
Karen Brinson Bell (D)
Appointed Executive Director - 2019
Budget Allocation For Elections: $6,833,297
Per Capita Investment In Elections: $0.65
In North Carolina, elections are overseen by the State Board of Elections, an independent five-member agency appointed by the governor from nominees put forth by the state political parties. The State Board, in turn, appoints an Executive Director to run its elections. The current Executive Director is Karen Brinson Bell, selected by the Democratic majority on the State Board. While Secretary of State Elaine Marshall (D) does not directly oversee elections in NC, she will ultimately certify the results and submit them to the governor.
North Carolina is a wild card. The Board of Elections appears to be motivated by good governance concerns and is very proactive about communicating and taking action where needed. In 2019, Brinson Bell announced a public awareness campaign to improve public confidence in the system. And the state is effectively pushing CARES Act funding to the county level.
However, North Carolina is not immune to politically-motivated policy; in the aftermath of 2016, a Trump-appointed attorney general launched a dubious investigation into voter fraud targeting foreign-born citizens. It turned up just 20 cases, but sent a stifling message to immigrant populations.
Statements on Voter Fraud
The NC Board of Elections famously refused to certify results after a 2018 midterm race was found to be tainted by voter fraud - committed by Republican Mark Harris. A state audit into the 2016 results found just 20 cases of fraud. (B-)
The State Board of Elections ordered an expansion of early voting to accommodate changes in voter behavior due to COVID-19. The order also laid out safety measures polling places will be expected to follow. (A-)
Support for Vote By Mail
In June, Governor Roy Cooper (D) signed a bill making it easier for residents to vote by mail, embracing the tenets of sending ballot applications to all registered voters, and extending postmark deadlines beyond Election Day. (B)
The Center for American Progress gives North Carolina a solid grade for its cyber-security measures, with indications that the state is taking appropriate IT precautions. There is room to improve post-election audits, however. (B+)
The Lieutenant Governor of NC (a Republican) is currently suing the Governor of NC (a Democrat) over state closures related to COVID-19. And the state is notorious for its history of gerrymandering driven by "partisan intent". (C-)
North Carolina's shifting demographics have led to anti-democratic tactics from state Republicans looking to maintain power. The state also has a history - including recently - of using voter ID laws to disenfranchise. (C-)
KEY PUBLIC STATEMENTS
This legislation creates a high risk of voter harassment and intimidation and could discourage citizens from voting
Karen Brinson Bell
State Board of Elections
This order gives more opportunity to voters this year... this order is the right thing to do because no North Carolinian should fear exposure to disease when they cast their ballot.
State Board of Elections
Adversaries both domestically and abroad want you to distrust the elections process. Please let them know that you trust your elections officials and the elections process by exercising your right to vote.